Everyone is born with a fire within, a divine imperative, to create something to leave behind as a statement that we have been here. Even though that fire is intrinsic, it’s often hidden until something sets it alight. That something might be a pain, loss, an experience that leaves its mark, or an inspiration, an act of kindness or falling in love. Our creative fire is ignited by rubbing up against things of the world.
I’ve often contemplated the story about the Jewish children in concentration camps during the holocaust drawing birds, trees, and butterflies on the walls of their prison; and how the human spirit seeks to restore itself to hope in the midst of destruction. We reach for a future that will be bright and beautiful even when the facts refuse to support our dream of a positive outcome. But one of the paradoxes of human existence is our ability to either illuminate our spiritual nature or obscure it in the name of reality.
It was the creative fire of love that imagined the Taj Mahal, the creative fire of wonder that created preservation of exquisite places of the natural world in parks and preserves, and it was the fire of anger and fear that also produced the atom bomb and weapons of mass destruction. Always, sometimes even daily, we have a choice of using our inner fire to warm, preserve, and enhance life or encompass our own destruction and that of others through despair, isolation, self-rejection, violence, and even suicide.
Perhaps, the lesson in the above statement is a call to study and gain skills in how we think and what we think about, how we talk and the effect it has on those around us, and equally important is the creation of actions that result in beauty rather than destruction.
The energies that require the use of creative fire are often left to chance through a learn by mistakes approach to living. Yet, they are the very stuff of a thriving life- how to live with respect for all life on Earth, how to make and keep a lasting commitments in a loving relationships, how to raise loving, generous, and kind children, how to show respect for our elders, and how to make a meaningful contribution to the communities in which we belong.
As I was growing up, I tried to make a note of all the energies the adults around me shared with one another, with my siblings and myself, especially the ones that hurt physically and emotionally. It was my absolute intention to not be like my mother, my father, and other authority figures whose anger spilt over onto everyone around them. And yet, I yelled at my children and attempted to control my significant relationships by making myself indispensable and necessary while denying my own needs.
So now, I’ve reached the age of seventy-two having dissolved two marriages and pissed off several people who have disappeared from my life. All I wanted was to be a maker and shaper of beauty in the world, and so I attempted to ignite the fire of creation by rubbing against others instead of igniting my inner divine fire by trusting the Indwelling Presence of the Divine Spirit. I’ve also learned that finding The Presence within is a journey that everyone must take in order to fulfil the demand and the promise of being a creator and maker of beauty in the world.
Almost all spiritual pathways have given directions on how not to destroy ourselves and others with the creative fire. One of these is called the golden rule, and there is some form of this statement in most sacred texts. Do and give to others only what you are willing to receive yourself.
Another common statement that puts a safety net of stones around that inner burning is- Love God with your whole heart and mind, and all others as God loves you. However, even with these two lofty and exalted admonitions, humans keep rubbing ourselves against the world, the expectations of the world, and the expectations of what we want, where we want to be, and how we want others to see us. Sadly, despite all the obstacles and disappointments we still expect these imaginings to come true.
Perhaps, part of our stubbornness in this regard comes from a belief from the western world that we have an inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The reality of life, however, is that sometimes we are going to thrive and sometimes we are going to be wounded or wound others. This is difficult to accept.
Does it mean that I must embrace the parts of me that yelled at my kids, failed at my marriages, and pissed off people I cared about? Yes, actually, that is exactly what it means. Embracing all that has happened, all that I have felt, seen, heard, and participated in allows me to see my life as an act of creation, a work in progress, as it were. That is an old cliché, but it is true.
When I’m cutting out pieces for a quilt and sewing them together it’s always my intention that it will come out perfect, smooth, and without blemish. Somehow, there is always seems to be a piece of two that don’t want to lay flat or don’t turn out exactly square. The same happens with beadwork, there’s always a bead of the wrong colour or size that doesn’t fit the pattern but finds its way into the work somehow. I don’t always have the patience to take things apart and fix the problem, so I adopted the Japanese idea that imperfect things are beautiful.
I read recently that James Thurber once sat by his window watching a bulldozer clear a field of elm trees to build an asylum intended for those driven insane by the cutting down of elm trees. It’s irrational to be guilty, shrivelled, and to cut ourselves down because we have been burned by the creative fires of life and that we were not who we wanted to be, where we wanted to be, and who others expected us to be. Creation cannot happen without mistakes. Life cannot happen without wounding.
The most important skill we can develop as we continue to make and create beauty or inadvertent ugliness is to remember that nothing can change as long as we are still rehearsing the history that brought us to where we are today. Life happened. Our mistakes and successes are a part of ourselves.
However, we are not yet ashes buried with the ancestors, therefore, let the past be past. Plan a new image of self, gather the creative fire, the colours, the brushes, wisdom, and courage. From that place, we can be excited about what we will create next!